As someone who has marked thousands of exam answers on poetry, Iíve developed a few ideas about what makes a good response. In no particular order they are:

  • Get to know the poems thoroughly in advance and make sure the examiner knows you know the poems.

  • Donít write about the poems in general terms; always relate your answer to the question set. As youíre working frequently check that what youíre writing is relevant to the question.

  • Compare the poems. Both AQA poetry questions require comparison for the higher grades (C and above). Build in phrases that will show you are comparing. These include phrases like:

    • Both poems Ö

    • Unlike poem A, poem B Ö

    • Like poem A, poem B Ö

    • When compared to poem A, poem B is Ö

    • The two poems are similar because Ö

    • The two poems are different because Ö

  • Include short quotations or references to elements of the poems to support your points.

  • Always explain the relevance of your quotations to the questions immediately after youíve used them

  • After quotations always refer to techniques within them Ė perhaps a metaphor or a simile Ė and remember to say why the technique is effective. Donít just Ďfeature spotí as youíll get little credit for it.

  • Aim to develop some of your points in as fully as possible using detail from the poems. A* answers need close textual analysis.

  • Write the number of the questions youíve attempted on the front of your answer booklet. If you donít do it, the examiner has to do it, which can be annoying.

  • Plan your answer for a few minutes. It may be that you canít think of as much to say as you first thought. It is better to realise this in the first few minutes than after fifteen minutes of writing. Also, planning is an excellent way of making sure you include comparison.

  • Finally, donít worry. Becoming too stressed about exams will affect your performance.

Good luck!